Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head – Glistening Pleasure

Band: Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head
Album: Glistening Pleasure
Genre: Electro Pop
Label: Team Swan

1. Me + Yr Daughter
2. Slow Motion Tag Team
3. Iceage Babeland
4. Mouth Full of Bones
5. Holding Hands in the Shower
6. L.A. Noir
7. Staying Cool
8. Bedroom Costume
9. Hush Hush
10. Beard Lust
11. Sophisticated Side Ponytail
12. The Malibu Highlife
13. Connections

Have you ever heard or seen something that simply left you speechless? Maybe it was beautiful, or perhaps grotesque, but either way it left you with a sense of disbelief and astonishment? This has happened a few times in life for me. The first time I heard, Enema of the State, Ryan Gosling’s performance in Lars and the Real Girl, and any time I hear a line of dialogue spoken by Heath Ledger as the joker all come to mind as solid examples, but the reason I asked is all due to Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head. This Electro pop act not only amused and confused me with the cover of their new album, Glistening Pleasure, but the sounds contained on said album had a similar effect as well. In just over 45 min., this group of Seattle youth take the listener to the eighties and back with a synth heavy rock sound that will make your feet move and become engrained in your mind for weeks, if not months, to come.

“Me + Yr Daughter,” the lead track on the album, plays like a song cut from a John Hughes film. Seriously, you can almost see Molly Ringwald and crew celebrating at the High School dance or at a house party while this track plays. It has a great back beat with simple lyrics to sing along to that are laced with just a touch of lustful fun. There’s nothing dirty here or elsewhere on the album, but talk of touching bodies and such is a common theme, but with the fun sounds the band creates, you never take it too seriously. A perfect example of this careless fun is, “Iceage Babeland,” which comes complete with the line, “keep it strictly on the dance floor/otherwise what’s your booty for?” Some may scoff at lyrics like this, but when matched with synth tones and and a simple beat, you will be hard pressed to not desire to dance along with the track and hit repeat as soon as it finishes. In fact, it’s my favorite on the whole album, it’s pure pop genius.

“Holding Hands in the Shower,” is a solid contender for radio airplay. The opening claps bring back memories of, “Fergalicious,” while the vocals will make you think of Joy Division. I know it sounds weird to talk about Fergie and Joy Division in the same sentence, but trust me, when the right elements of each are put together as they are here, resistance is futile. This catchy mash-up of both modern and older sounds continues on a lot of the album, but, ‘Bedroom Costume,” is straight out of the mid-80’s and in the most glorious way possible. A simple back beat, with light and equally simple synth tones that are met with hand claps give way to easy flowing vocals from both Luke Smith and Claire England. Though we don’t hear a lot of Claire on the album when compared to Luke, her voice is pop music perfection. It’s not the over-the-top diva tones of Christina Aguilera, or the deep tones of Britney Spears, but rather more of a throwback to Tiffany and Debbie Harry which has this irresistible feel to it that I cannot get over.

One problem that many of these “electro-fun-dance-pop,” bands have is that the simplicity of their music at times becomes too cheesy and childish. One key example would be the B-52s inspired, “Beard Lust,” which is literally about facial hair. Now, a cute and edgy beard/facial hair jam would be welcome, but this is too straightforward and simplistic for my tastes. The band recovers immediately with the Go-Go’s themed, “Sophisticated Side Ponytail,” which once again displays Claire’s lovely vocals and allows the band to perfect their new wave sound. There’s even a break in the midst of the dance pop for a section of xylophone work reminiscent of the Little Mermaid that lasts just long enough to make you smile and even chuckle before the beat comes back to the lead. It’s these little moments when the music, which is already suppose to be fun, breaks or changes either musically or lyrically and transfers into something that would normally be utterly ridiculous yet somehow feels right in place on this album. A solid example can be found on the closer to the album which is entitled, “Confections,” which includes an endlessly repeated set of “do do do do do,” and lines like, “you want some candy/you can have/ all you want.” The song actually has some depth in the use of metaphors and such, but the band doesn’t lack on the fun to tell a story with meaning or depth. This fact is key to the bands success because it shows they understand they have to entertain first and foremost and this track along with the rest of the album does that stunningly well.

I’ll admit, at first I put the debut album from Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head to the side and wrote it off before giving it a real chance. Though, after staring at ridiculous album art for a few days, I just had to give it a spin. Here we are, 2 weeks later and about 25 spins in and I can say it’s easily the best dance/pop to come out this year if not the last two years. Forget about the scene bands with their tight jeans and black t-shirts with metal bands on them and find yourself a copy of Glistening Pleasure because it is the only album you’ll need to get a party started in 2008. Keep your eyes peeled as this band may be on a small label right now, but we at UTG can see them being the next big thing in music. So don’t wait to become part of the bandwagon, check these guys [and girl] out now!

*Written By: James Shotwell*
GRADE: 8.5/10

James Shotwell
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